Oakland amends apartment project

The Town Commission reluctantly voted to approve the first neighborhood of The Avenue at Oakland project, which will add 342 units to the town.

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When the town of Oakland was in its initial discussions with PFD Longleaf LLC representatives more than two years ago, the town staff and elected officials were adamant about wanting housing specifically for senior citizens. But after seeing a revised conceptual site plan for the first phase of the mixed-use Longleaf at Oakland project, members of the Oakland Town Commission say they feel like the town is the victim of a “bait and switch” tactic.

Longleaf is located north of Florida’s Turnpike on the south side of Oakland Avenue.

The 16-acre Neighborhood 1 — The Avenue at Oakland — originally was slated for 350 multi-family units and 150 senior-living units. That initial 500 was decreased to 360 and, finally, to 342.

The four apartment buildings are four stories in height.

In its first revised site plan, the applicant removed a second main entrance, made the clubhouse a freestanding building and added two security gates to the parking areas inside the neighborhood and not directly on Oakland Avenue.

“Generally speaking, we don’t like gates,” Mayor Kathy Stark said. “It’s very rare that we’re OK with gates.”

Chuck Whittall of Unicorp National Developments Inc., one of the project partners, said the gates are to keep people from parking there when using the West Orange Trail.

The second revised site plan, approved by the Town Commission at its June 25 meeting, removes a second pool and proposes that all 342 apartments be “senior friendly.” A southbound turn lane will be constructed on Oakland Avenue at the entrance.

The commission’s approval vote does not mean the elected officials are happy with the final product.

They told the developer they feel like they were promised one project and are receiving another. “Our expectation and what we’re hearing are two different things,” Stark said.

After making the motion for approval, Commissioner Mike Satterfield said, “It was very hard to make that motion because I feel like I was sold one thing and bought another.”

“This better be everything and more,” Stark told developers.

Commissioners said they were expecting separate independent-living and assisted-living facilities but what they are getting is an apartment complex that is dubbed “senior friendly.”

According to developers, this will be reflected in community amenities and planned resident activities, as well as apartments with features such as walk-in tile showers with benches, optional grab-bar installation, wheelchair-accessible clearance throughout, levered door handles, retractable pots-and-pans drawers and additional light switches in the bedrooms.

Whittall told the commission a market study reported a surplus of senior housing in the area, and he added that it is against fair-housing laws to designate one building within a community specifically to seniors.

“We were sold a senior building, regardless of the semantics,” Satterfield said.

Whittall likened this project to condo-quality, luxury apartments. His company has two similar projects on County Road 535: Zen Luxury Living and Venetian Isle.

“Think of the Grand Floridian,” he said.

Community features will include a 24-hour cardio/fitness center, yoga and aerobic studio, coffee bar, business center, conference room, library lounge, private theater room, game room, bike storage and repair, pet park, outdoor gardening plots and a putting green.

Unicorp and Project Finance & Development have partnered to develop the first neighborhood of the Longleaf at Oakland community.

Pulte Homes actively is building 83 single-family homes and 100 townhouses in the second and third neighborhoods. Phase 2 comprises 39.5 acres, and Phase 3 is 1.5 acres and will include six of the 83 houses.

With all of the development and increased traffic coming to the west end of Oakland Avenue, the town is considering lowering the speed limit in that area from 45 to possibly 35.


In other business:

• The Town Commission passed three resolutions — one regarding equal employment opportunity and two relating to policies — in accordance with the criteria set for municipalities applying for a Community Development Block Grant.

The town has applied for a $600,000 Neighborhood Revitalization Grant through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. If the town receives the award, it will fund community improvements for the installation of new gravity sewer lines, service laterals and septic tank abandonment for low-income residents in the town limits.

• Town Manager Steve Koontz was authorized to sign the Electric Vehicle Site Host Agreement for Duke Energy’s Florida Park & Plug Program. Oakland has been approved for two charging stations, which will be installed at the town center and at the Oakland Nature Preserve. Both stations can serve two vehicles.

• The commission approved Oakland Avenue Charter School leasing 88 computers for the 2019-20 school year at a cost of about $15,000.



Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.